Sexual Health FAQ
What resources are available?
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, a report be made to or help be received from many agencies and organizations on campus and in the St. Lawrence community. These resources include the Advocates Program, Health & Counseling, and the Associate Dean on campus, and Renewal House, Citizens Against Violent Acts, Inc. (CAVA), and the ton Village Police in the community. For a complete list of resources available to you please refer to the back page of the Advocates Program brochure or other sections of our website.
What do I do if it happens to my friend?
Believe them. If someone confides in you that they have been victimized by sexual assault or another form of sexual violence the single most important thing that you do is to believe them unequivocally. It takes a great deal of courage for a person to talk about an experience of sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking and your initial reaction will determine the remainder of this conversation. Showing your friend that you believe them and support them will help him or her through his or her recovery process.
How Can I help?
The most important thing you do is to believe and support the person victimized by sexual violence. Refer to the above question for assistance with this. Ask the person how you help. By doing this you are giving the person power and control over their situation and empowering them to tell you what they may or may not need as this time. Another useful way that you help someone in a sexually violent situation is to educate yourself about the topic of sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking. The more you understand the issue, the more you will be able to be a resource to your friend if he or she asks you for assistance.
What is my responsibility to make sure this doesn't happen?
Sexual violence does not occur in a vacuum. Our society perpetuates certain beliefs and attitudes that normalizes the behaviors that lead to perpetrating an act of sexual violence. As a whole, we begin to change this norm by challenging our peers when we hear them telling a sexist or derogatory joke, confronting individuals who blame the victim for her actions, and asking our peers to abide by an affirmative consent policy that requires the initiator to gain the explicit permission from his or her partner before proceeding into a sexual act with him or her. Change happens when we live in a culture of mutual respect that recognizes each person's right to bodily integrity - the right to control what and who happens to your body at any given moment. However, the only way for an individual act of sexual violence to be guaranteed not to occur is for the potential perpetrator of that act to choose not to perpetrate it.
What do people do that perpetuates sexual violence?
We all take part in a culture that perpetuates sexual violence - a rape culture. This includes being consumers of various genres of music and film that trivialize sexual violence or endorse discriminatory and derogatory language against sections of our population. Sometimes our involvement is through telling a sexist joke or using a phrase such as "That test totally raped me" to express doing poorly on an exam. When we make light of sexually violent situations in any context we contribute to a culture that condones sexual violence while simultaneously showing survivors that we do not take their situation seriously. Our words carry a lot of power and it is our responsibility to choose language that neither blames the victim nor condones the actions of the perpetrator.
Does sexual violence have anything to do with liking a person?
No. Sexual violence is a crime about power and control. It occurs when one person believes that they have the right to exert power and control over another person. Although sexual violence is an offense that is often quite intimate, it is not a sexually driven crime.
Can it happen to me?
Yes. Sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking are crimes that do not discriminate based upon age, gender, sexuality, race, religion, or any other identifying characteristic. Although the majority of persons victimized by crimes of sexual violence are women, many men will be victimized as well. There is no "type" of person that is more likely to be raped, abused, or stalked than another because the crime has nothing to do with who is the victim. Sexual violence is determined by the perpetrator who chooses to exert power and control over another human being - not by any characteristic of that person.
What are some dangerous situations, and how do I protect myself during them?
There is a lot of rhetoric around about ways we keep ourselves safe by avoiding certain dangerous situations. Women have been warned about the dangers of overalls, ponytails, cell phones, alleyways, and nighttime. They have been given advice that ranges from the sensible, "everyone-should-do-this" variety, such as lock your doors at night, to the absurd, such as buy a blow-up doll to take on long trips. These messages are offered in the spirit of helping women, but they fail on two fronts:
1) They focus on "preventing" assaults by strangers when, in fact, four out of five assaults are committed by someone the person knows
2) Women are not raped, battered, or stalked because of anything they do, but because of something the perpetrator chooses to do. Clearly, prevention messages must be focused on potential perpetrators, not on potential victims.
Was it my fault?
It is not your fault. It is not your fault. It is not your fault. Most survivors of sexual violence will grapple with the question of who is to blame for their experience. These feelings are perfectly natural following a sexual assault, abusive situation, or stalking experience. No matter what the situation was, it is never the fault of the victim for being involved in a sexually violent act. It does not matter if the person was drinking or sober, wearing provocative clothing or a turtleneck sweater - nothing the survivor did could have caused the sexual violence; only the perpetrator of the crime causes the sexual assault, abuse, or stalking. There are support groups available to survivors of sexual violence through the Advocates Program that help someone work through their feelings after an experience of sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking.
What are the early warning signs?
Individuals of all cultures, races, occupations, income levels, and ages become abusers, rapists, or stalkers if they choose to use power and control to terrorize another person. There is no one "type" of person that becomes sexually violent. There are several signs of an abusive personality that are common amongst people who have the potential to become perpetrators of abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. These include characteristics such as exhibiting controlling behavior or isolating someone from resources, friends, and family.